City People Notebook

Eisner, Will. Will Eisner’s New York: Life in the Big City: City People Notebook. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1989.

Reason read: to continue the series started in January.

I am starting to notice a pattern with Eisner’s work: there is a level of subtle tragedy in every story in Will Eisner’s New York. One example – in City People Notebook the throngs of people moving down the bustling sidewalk do not give notice to the man in terrible distress, apparently having a heart attack until he lies prostrate on the sidewalk, dead. It’s a terrible image.
Despite the sadness there is some humor (Hotel LaSleaze where a man assumes he has anonymity and takes out an escort). I especially liked the smell shock. The city smells so bad you don’t recognize when it is on fire.
The same street has many different personalities: empty, angry, sad. Eisner studies the relationship between people and these streets. He calls it an “archaeological study of city people.” The lonely people, the suspicious people, the harried people. They all flow through the streets on their way somewhere. All the while they are unaware of the environmental factors of time, smell, rhythm and space. There is a certain cadence to the city – the element of speed through a maze; a certain cacophony of emissions.

Author fact: Eisner died in January 2005.

Book trivia: Eisner offers up a new introduction for City People Notebook in his compendium.

Nancy said: Pearl lists City People Notebook as one of the books about New York City she really liked.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “New York City: a Taste of the Big Apple” (p 151).


Maximize 365

Sherry, Kristin A. Maximize 365: A Year of Actionable Tips to Transform Your Life. Texas: Black Rose, 2021

Reason read: chosen for the Early Review Program for LibraryThing.

Inspired by a combination of the works of Bob Sager and Zig Ziglar Kristin Sherry has come up with her own five forms of life-wealth: Health and Wellness, Spirituality, Relationships, Career, and Finances. Each chapter is dedicated to themes surrounding the five forms of life-health and each theme is only a page long. Sherry’s book is chock full of great advice although not all of it is hers. She has curated dozens of websites, YouTube videos, Tedx Talks, quotes, articles and books from other experts and compiled them in Maximize 365. I thought of her book as more of an encyclopedia for the learners and the curious; anyone interested in self-development but too busy and overwhelmed to find each resource individually.
There is truth to the information Sherry shares in Maximize 365. My favorite example would be something my husband and I started doing early in the pandemic: taking hikes in the woods. Described by the Japanese as Shinrin-yoku, or “taking in the forest” Sherry reports taking twenty-minute walks through nature several times a week as a way to stave off depression. It works.
Another element of Maximize 365 I could relate to was when Sherry describes being busy as a “status symbol.” That may be true, but it is also a generational thing. My mother and father worked seven days a week. Sitting and reading a book was seen as indulgent or lazy. Always doing something constructive was preferred. Books and sitting still were saved for bad weather or illness. To this day my mother cannot sit in one place for very long. I have inherited her sense of constant motion.

My biggest pet peeve: sometimes Sherry will refer to a book but not give the author credit.

Confessional: I skipped the religious piece because what if I am not a practicing Christian? What if my belief does not have a capital G god? What if my book of faith is not the Bible?
Another way to make Maximize 365 more inclusive is to remove the word “marriage” and call it life relationships or intimate partnerships. Some people cannot get married because of their sexual orientation or ethnic differences. What if someone wanted to work on their relationship skills as a parent?


Spies of Warsaw

First, Alan. Spies of Warsaw. New York: Random House, 2008.

Reason read: Furst was born in February; read in his honor.

The year is 1937 and German-born engineer, Edvard Uhl, finds himself caught up in smuggling German industrial plans relating to armament and arms. Like joining a gang, Edvard is drawn deeper and deeper into the fold. The tightening entanglement causes Uhl to become more and more paranoid about being exposed. But how to get out? This is how The Spies of Warsaw begins but it is not about Edvard. He is just a pawn; one little cog in the world of espionage. The real protagonist is Colonel Jean-Francois Mercier, military attaché to the French Embassy. War is eminent and the stakes couldn’t be higher in the struggle for intel. Mercier, familiar with war as a decorated 1914 veteran, must make his moves carefully. One never knows who is counterintelligence and who is an ally. Who is a betrayer? In the midst of the political drama, Furst gives Mercier a love interest. Anna’s role is not to lighten the story but to add another layer of tension and mystery. While the book only covers seven months before World War II, the shadowy sense of place is heavy across Poland, Germany, and France.
As an aside, I particularly liked the train scenes: travelers waiting on the platform with the falling snow and paranoia circling in equal amounts.

Author fact: Furst has been compared to John le Carre.

Book trivia: Spies of Warsaw was made into a television drama for the BBC

Nancy said: Pearl said Furst’s novels are “great for their splendid sense of place – World War II Eastern Europe” (p 183).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Polish Up Your Polish” (p 181).


The Namesake

Lahiri, Jhumpa. The Namesake. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2003.

Reason read: Vasant Panchami is a holiday celebrated in India to mark the coming of spring. I also needed a book for the Portland Public Library Reading Challenge in the category of “a PPL Book of the Week pick.”

While this is the story of Gogol Ganguli, first we must start from the beginning. Perspective must be established. Before Gogol’s birth and as a Bengali Indian keeping with her culture, Ashima Ganguli comes to the United State to partake in an arranged marriage. By 1968, Ashima has only been in Cambridge, Massachusetts for eighteen months before becoming pregnant with her first child. This is where Lahiri first draws attention to the many differences between American and Indian practices and this is where Gogol’s life begins; in this state of conflicting cultures. But back to Ashima. The first evidence of cultural confusion: the fact women in Bengali do not give birth in a cold, sterile hospital. They birth in the warm and comforting home their parents. Gogol is out of place even before he has been born. Then a subtle example of cultural ignorance: once Ashima is in labor the nurse cannot figure out how to fold Ashima’s six yards of silk sari. Most importantly (and the crux of the story), Indian parents do not choose the name of their child on a whim. It is this last detail that sets the stage for Gogol’s life story: the importance of identity; the necessity of belonging; the eventual learning to compromise in order to belong in harmony. We follow Gogol through childhood into manhood as he navigates relationships with his family, love interests, and homeland.

As an aside, when Lahiri mentions the Boston Globe story about Andrew Wyeth and his Helga paintings it grounded me to time and place.

Lines I really liked, “American seconds tick on top of her pulse point” (p 4) and “If there is nothing decent on television she leafs through books she has taken out of out the library, books that occupy the space Ashoke normally does on the bed” (p 163). This last quote struck me because I do the same thing when my partner is away.

Author fact: Lahiri is American, but her parents are Indian immigrants from West Bengal.

Book trivia: The Namesake, New York Times bestseller, was made into a movie. Of course I have not seen it. Yet.

Nancy said: Pearl said The Namesake is slightly less depressing than Mukherjee’s Jasmine.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “The Immigrant Experience” (p 123).


Liar’s Game

Dickey, Eric Jerome. Liar’s Game. Rockland, MA: Wheel Publishing, Inc., 2000.

Reason read: Read in recognition of Black History month being in February. Also, I needed a book for the Portland Public Reading challenge for the category of a book written in multiple perspectives.

Vincent Calvary Browne, Jr. is a Negro Black Man trying to date after divorce. His ex-wife cheated. Adding insult to injury, she left him taking their three year old daughter out of the country. Baggage, baggage, baggage. Dana Ann Smith is a single woman trying to land on her feet in Los Angeles after leaving heavy debts and an even heavier romance in New York. Baggage, baggage, baggage. When Vince and Dana meet they are immediately attracted to one another. They seem like the perfect fit. However, in an effort to present their best selves to one another they hide their secrets under a pile of lies and more lies. Sooner or later, those lies start to reveal themselves as the couple gets more and more involved and Dana’s ex arrives from New York. Can Dana see beyond Vince’s lie about never being married or having children? Can she respect him as a father with an ex-wife? Can Vince hear Dana over the warning bells about her debt? Can he trust she is truly over her rich and hunky ex? What makes Liar’s Game so much fun is the varying perspectives of the same story. As the saying goes, there are are always three sides to every story: his side, her side, and the truth. Dickey gives us all three.
A word of warning – the writing is a little dated. In today’s society, I don’t think many people would consider a cell phone a piece of technology for players.
I have to admit even though the sex scenes were a bit cliché it was refreshing to see a condom play a major role in the hot and heavy relationships. There is even a scene when the condom gets “lost.”

Simple but great lines to quote, “Hard living and bad loving ages a man” (p 2), “A smile is the shortest distance between two people” (p 6).

Author fact: Dickey died of cancer in January of this year. Sad.

Book trivia: I could see this as a movie or a daytime soap opera.

Nancy said: Pearl mentions Liar’s Game as another good example of fiction written by an African American male.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter “African American Fiction: He Say” (p 13).


Devil’s Highway: a True Story

Urrea, Luis Alberto. The Devil’s Highway: a True Story. Boston: Little, Brown & Company, 2004.

Reason read: Read in honor of Arizona becoming a state in February even though Arizona is the bad guy in this story. I also needed a book with the topic of a group working towards a common goal for the Portland Public Library Reading Challenge.

Southern Arizona is an unforgiving territory but ask those in the know. The people of Veracruz would say Mexico is even more so. The risk of traversing southern Arizona’s blazing desert is worth it if it means getting out of a dead-end life in a violent country. As Natalie Merchant sings in ‘San Andreas Fault,’ “Go west. Paradise is there. You’ll have all that you can eat of milk and honey over there…it’s rags to riches over there.” The trick is to survive the journey. Enemies abound. Double-crossing smugglers. Keen-eyed border patrol. Camouflaged poisonous snakes. Lightning fast scorpions. None of these can hold a candle to the dangers of desert’s unrelenting heat. In May the temperature never dips below ninety degrees. In the daytime the sun gets so hot human bodies dry out and brains begin to boil. Through barely controlled rage, as if gritting his teeth, Urrea tells the harrowing story of twenty-six men who, in May of 2001, risk everything to make it to points north. The Devil’s Highway (or Path), as this stretch of southern Arizona desert is known, is notorious for being so dangerous even Border Patrol stays clear. Other reviews of Urrea’s book state that twelve of the twenty-six succeeded in making it to safety. I have an issue with this. To say that twelve made it to safety implies that they succeeded in arriving at their various U.S. destinations. They succeeding in disappearing into the fabric of nameless and faceless working-class communities across the country. Instead, they survived the desert, were nursed back to health and only to be regarded as witnesses for a criminal trial against their coyote and ultimately sent back to Mexico. There is more but I will leave it at that.

There were a lot of great lines to quote. Here are some of my favorites, “It was a forest of eldridge bones” (p 5), “As if the desert felt it hadn’t made its point, it added killer bees” (p 6), and “A magus can sit in his pickup and summon the Beast while eating a teriyaki bowl and Diet Coke” (p 13). Harsh realities.

Author fact: Urrea also wrote The Hummingbird’s Daughter and Into the North. Both titles are on my Challenge list.

Book trivia: The Devil’s Highway is a best seller and came close to winning a Pulitzer.

Nancy said: Pearl mentions The Devil’s Highway would be a good read for a book group. She also said it has been “well reviewed.” Interestingly enough, Devil’s Highway is an aside in both chapters.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “AZ You Like It” (p 30), and again in the chapter called “Postcards From Mexico” (p 185)


Blanche on the Lam

Neely, Barbara. Blanche on the Lam. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1992.

Reason read: January is Mystery month. Reading Blanche on the Lam in honor of the month. Additionally, for the Portland Public Library 2021 Reading Challenge, I needed a book for category of Agatha Award winner.

Blanche White is a special kind of sassy woman; not your average maid. When we first meet her in Farleigh, North Carolina, she is waiting to go to jail; convicted of writing bad checks. This is her second offense so she knows the judge is going to throw the book at her: thirty days in jail if only to set an example. When she unexpectedly finds an opportunity to slip away from the bailiff, she takes it quiet as you please. Just slips out the back door of the courthouse.
Through a series of misunderstandings Blanche ends up working as “the help” for an upper class white family: Everette, Grace, Mumsfield, and Aunt Emmeline. Luckily, Blanche has her wicked humor and uncanny intuition because from the moment she starts working for the family, she can tell something is wrong with all of them except mentally challenged Mumsfield. It wasn’t just from eavesdropping on Everett’s conversation with the sheriff, despite the sheriff’s death the very next day. It wasn’t from observing the odd behavior of alcoholic and seemingly senile Aunt Emmeline, who never leaves her room. It wasn’t from the gardener who perishes in an “accidental” house fire. It was from watching and talking with Mumsfield. From the moment they met Blanche had a special connection to the boy; he was always on her radar whether she liked it or not.
Blanche on the Lam, while humorous also carries the stark reality of sexism, racism and prejudice. Neely deftly weaves these sobering themes through an otherwise funny plot.

As an aside, I listened to an audio recording of Blanche on the Lam read by Lisa Renee Pitts. Her performance was brilliant.

Author fact: Blanche on the Lam is Barbara Neely’s first novel.

Book trivia: Blanche on the Lam won the Agatha Award in 1992.

Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about Blanche on the Lam.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “I Love a Mystery” (p 119).


The Building

Eisner, Will. Will Eisner’s New York: Life in the Big City: The Building. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1987.

Reason read: to continue the series started in January.

So much tragedy and human heartache surrounding one building: the story of Monroe, a man trying to save all the children of New York after an accident involving a young boy changes his entire life; PJ Hammond and his singular obsession to buy the building he grew up in; the love affair between Gilda and poor poet, Benny in the shadow of the building (until Gilda goes and marries someone else for money); and Antonio Tonatti, the man who loved to play music in front of the majestic building until it was torn down. One building, so many stories. It’s as if the giant structure made of glass and steel stood guard over all these lives.There is one final story which ties all the other stories together. It’s bittersweet and beautiful. Quintessential New York.

Author fact: Eisner has a comic Hall of Fame award named after him.

Book trivia: Look carefully at the illustrations. Characters come back from other stories.

Nancy said: The Building is included in a list of books about New York that Pearl has enjoyed.

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “New York City: A Taste of the Big Apple” (p 151).


Two for the Dough

Evanovich, Janet. Two for the Dough. New York: Scribner, 1996.

Reason read: to continue the series started in January in honor of Female Mystery month…or something like it.

Stephanie Plum is a self-professed “fugitive apprehension agent” otherwise known as a budding bounty hunter. In One for the Money Stephanie falls into the business when her cousin, Vincent, needs a fill-in for an absent agent. Turns out, Stephanie has a knack for accidentally catching the fugitives. She’s a little clumsy and a lot reckless, but with luck and accidental courage, she catches on pretty quick.
This time, in Two for the Dough, Stephanie is after one Kenny Mancuso, Joe Morelli’s cousin. To bring you up to speed, Joe is the innocent “bad guy” Stephanie needed to apprehend in the last book, One for the Money. Ex-military man Kenny has been accused of shooting his former best friend in the knee. Armed with a stun gun, pepper spray, flashlights, a .38 and a friend named Ricardo Carlos Manoso (aka Ranger), Stephanie is back on the hunt for Kenny. Things heat up when the best friend is shot a second time, this time, fatally. Did Kenny come back to finish the job? When Stephanie’s spunky grandmother is stabbed in the hand with an ice pick, things turn serious. It’s personal this time. Stephanie needs to watch her step because now family’s involved. The plot is fun, a little unbelievable, sometimes a little mumbo jumbo, and more often than not, forgettable.
As an aside, everyone seems to be a cousin of someone else. Stephanie has the fugitive apprehension gig because of her cousin, Vinny. Some guy named Gazarra is married to her cousin. Stephanie is after Kenny who is a cousin of Joe’s. A car at the scene of the crime belonged to another cousin of Joe’s; this time a guy named Leo.

Quote to quote, “When in dread, my rule was always to procrastinate” (p 173). Yup. It’s the only one I liked.

Author fact: Evanovich has an official FaceBook page.

Book trivia: Like One for the Money, Two for the Dough was a best seller.

Nancy said: Pearl said Two for the Dough will having you laughing.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Ms. Mystery” (p 171).


Gaudi Afternoon

Wilson, Barbara. Gaudi Afternoon. Washington: Seal Press, 2001.

Reason read: February is my birth month and I want to honor women doing cool stuff. In honor of a female globetrotting translator, I’m reading Gaudi Afternoon.

What starts out as a promise to help a friend of a friend find a missing husband because she can speak Spanish, Cassandra Reilly jets off to Barcelona, Spain. She soon finds herself running all over the city, as in running into old lovers left and right. She is supposed to be looking for Ben Stevens, husband to Frankie. Instead, her time is taken up with deflecting old lover, Ana, and Ana’s quest to start a family with Cassandra; or lusting after on again-off again lover and hairdresser, Carmen; or getting orgasmic foot massages from the wacky weird foot therapist, Alice. Occasionally, in between being starved for sexual companionship, and looking for lost people, Cassandra works on translating a South American best seller and discovering the genius of Antonio Gaudi’s architecture. Then there’s looking for Ben…remember the missing husband of Frankie? Only, it isn’t Ben who is missing. This is a never ending kidnapping caper. The gender bending gets confusing at times.

Quotes to quote, “Or I’ll decide I need to catch up with an old lover in Uruguay, and political events will keep me there longer than expected” (p 3).

Pet peeve: small detail. Cassandra goes into a shop that seems to be full of nautical items. Maps are not nautical. Charts are the correct term.

Author fact: Wilson’s last name is Sjoholm. Like her lead heroine, she is a writer, editor, teacher and translator.

Book trivia: Gaudi Afternoon was made into a movie in 2001 starring Judy Davis. Of course I haven’t seen it.

Nancy said: Pearl said Gaudi Afternoon was a contemporary series featuring a female sleuth. I wouldn’t call Cassandra Reilly a “sleuth” but rather a woman who got caught up in sleuthing.

BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called “Ms. Mystery” (p 169).


Will Eisner’s New York: the Big City: New York

Eisner, Will. Will Eisner’s New York: the Big City: New York. New York: D.C. Comics, 1981.

Reason read: Will Eisner passed away in the month of January. Read in his memory.

Every time I think of New York I cannot help but also think of Natalie Merchant’s song, “Carnival.” How could I not? It’s an homage to a great city of contradiction. Her line, “A wild-eyed mystic prophet, on a traffic island, stopped and he raved of saving me” evokes so many conflicting emotions. Thanks to my nephew being born in New York City, I got to waken a dormant love for the Big Apple. Sights, smells, and sounds that are often times distasteful to some (like my husband), fill me with inexplicable energy and ambition. I want to run Central Park like I live on the upper west side. It’s as if New York’s grit and grime are tangible forms of strength and tenacity that speak loudly to me. In New York, Will Eisner captures perfectly the stark reality of the big city’s silent and subtle struggles. You can smell the stench of all corners of New York, hear the frenetic activity in every sentence. But, look and look again very carefully. There is power in what isn’t said. Look at the illustration of the people riding the subway. You can almost hear the rattle of the rails; and when the train grinds to a halt during a blackout there’s that one guy who doesn’t change expression. As the minutes tick by, the people around him slowly start to panic while he stoically stares ahead. There truly is always that one guy and if you were on that train, you would see him. This is a portrait of an important city doing unimportant things, all lovingly expressed in a series of vignettes; the constants of New York: Avenue C which connect the East side to West, the importance of stoops, the sentinels of the City (hydrants, mailboxes, traffic signals, lampposts, windows, and sewers), and the people. You can read the entire thing in minutes, but that only means you have time to read it again and again and again.

Best quotes, “The big city is after all a hive of concrete and steel in which living things swarm. Depositing, in the course of their lives, the residue of their existence, in the countless garbage cans that sit dumbly amid the swirl” (p 41).

Author fact: Will Eisner popularized the term “graphic novel.”

Book trivia: After New York the tribute to New York continues with The Building, City People Notebook, and, Invisible People.

Nancy said: Pearl said she really enjoyed New York.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “New York City: A Taste of the Big Apple” (p 151).


Reviving Ophelia

Pipher, Mary. Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls. New York: Ballantine, 1995.

Reason read: as part of a New Year’s resolution for a friend, I am reading this with a few other books about raising daughters.

Reviving Ophelia takes personal stories of girls and connects them to larger cultural issues. While written in the mid-nineties, and a little out of date in places, for the most part Dr. Pipher still delivers sound advice, often sharing tidbits about herself along the way. Pipher is a child of the 1950s, and even though the writing is over thirty years old, her stories still hold up. Who hasn’t been “untrue” to themselves, lying about their level of hunger, downplaying grades, pretending to like a style of music or fashion to impress someone else? Peggy Orenstein addresses eating disorders in Schoolgirls in much the same way as Pipher. At times, the stories of girls with overwhelming desires to be thin were so similar I would forget which book, Pipher or Orenstein, I was reading. Reviving Ophelia is different from Schoolgirls in that Pipher is drawing from actual therapy sessions while Orenstein visited two different middle schools and interviewed children in a different atmosphere.

Quote to quote, “My relationship with my mother, like all relationships with mothers was extremely complex, filled with love, longing, a need for closeness and distance, separation and fusion” (p 102). Sounds very familiar. One other line to like, “Strong girls may protect themselves by being quiet and guarded so that their rebellion in known only by a few trusted others” (p 266).

Author fact: Mary Pipher has her own website here. Her blog, while brief, is beautiful.

Book trivia: Pipher does not include photographs in her book.

Nancy said: Pearl said Pipher should be read with The Body Project (Bromberg), Schoolgirls (Orenstein), and Queen Bees & Wannabes (Wiseman) as they are all about “teenage girls’ problems with both society and themselves” (More Book Lust p 227).

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Two, or Three, are Better Than One” (p 226).


Queen Bees Wannabes

Wiseman, Rosalind. Queen Bees Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boys, and the New Realities of Girl World, 3rd Ed. New York: Harmony Books, 2012.

Reason read: a woman’s new year’s resolution is to be a better mother. I’m not that woman, but she made me think of these books. Read in her honor.

Written for parents as a tool for understanding their daughters, Queen Bees offers insights from children and teens to supplement Wiseman’s sound advice. Wiseman’s first job is to offer suggestions for what kind of guidance a mother can give her daughter surrounding all kinds of situations, usually related to peer to peer friendships and other critical relationships in a girl’s life. Occasionally, she addresses the dads, too. More often than not, Wiseman will offer sample “scripts” of what to say in various situations. It is here that I found Wideman to be a little idealistic in more than a few places. See here: “Get inside her head and then you’ll understand where she is coming from and how to help her” (p 8). That is like saying create world peace and you will end gun violence. Don’t all parents want to know what is going on inside their child’s head? Wouldn’t knowing her true thoughts give parents at least some of the tools they need to help her? Additionally, some of the quotes from children seem a little suspect; a little too good to be true. Wiseman ignores the impact emotion has on an action. Sometimes logic is compromised by uncontrolled feeling; so much so that the right thing to say cannot come out. In truth, there are so many suggested dialogues that I found them a little tedious.
As an aside, I grew up with only two other girls in my entire school from 6th to 8th grade. and one of them was my little sister. I didn’t have the confrontations and drama that most girls in Queen Bees encountered. However, when I got to high school I had the social immaturity of a fourth grader. I was a pleaser and didn’t know how to voice my own opinion, or be my own person. I cringed to read about my own misguided actions and beliefs.

Quotes I liked, “There has never been an age limit on being mean” (p 5). Yup. First quote that really got me, “I had already learned that having a relationship was more important than how I was treated within it” (p 15). Been there, done that. Sadly. It’s called lying to yourself.

Author fact: Wiseman started off teaching young girls self defense and progressed to classes on self esteem and confidence.

Book trivia: Wiseman updates Queen Bees every five years. For example, this latest update included advice about emerging technologies.

Nancy said: Pearl said Wiseman should be read with The Body Project (Bromberg), Reviving Ophelia (Pipher), and Schoolgirls (Orenstein) as they all “address teenage girls’ problems with both society and themselves” (More Book Lust p 227).

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Two, or Three, are Better Than One” (p 226).


Zero

Seife, Charles. Zero: the Biography of a Dangerous Idea. New York: Viking, 2000.

Reason read: another choice relating to New Year’s resolution. Everyone wants to reset the clock. Zero symbolizes just that.

No other number can do so much damage, so says Charles Seife. He tells you this as he is explaining the Golden Ratio, how Winston Churchill is equal to a vegetable, and how you can make your very own wormhole. Mathematics, religion, philosophy, art, engineering, history: they all connect to zero. Mathematics is a more obvious element, but take religion: Shiva, one of the three gods in the Hindu triumvirate, represents nothing because Shiva’s role is to destroy the universe in order to perpetually recreate it. Seife goes deep to illustrate the importance of the zero and how, historically, it created as well as calmed chaos. Zero is historical and humorous, informative and even a little emotional.

Lines I liked, “To add insult to injury, the ultimate Pythagorean symbol of beauty and rationality, was an irrational number” (p 37) and “But the sand reckoner was destined to meet his fate while reckoning the sand” (p 52).

As an aside, does everyone know the music of Josh Ritter? I couldn’t help but think of his song, Lark, when reading Zero because he mentions “Golden ratio, the shell.”

Author fact: Seife has an M.S. in Mathematics from Yale University. Are you surprised?

Book trivia: Zero is the only book I know that starts with the chapter 0 instead of a preface or introduction.

Nancy said: Pearl lures you in and makes you curious about Zero when she says, “[Seife] offers a mathematical proof that Winston Churchill is equal to a carrot” (p 256). Okay, you got me.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Zero: This Will Mean Nothing To You” (p 256).


Schoolgirls

Orenstein, Peggy. Schoolgirls: Young Women, Self-Esteem, and the Confidence Gap. New York: Anchor, 1995.

Reason read: as part of a mother’s new year’s eve resolution I am reading this in solidarity.

Peggy Orenstein started her Schoolgirls project after reading a report by the American Association of University Women, “Shortchanging girls, Shortchanging America” in her daily newspaper. Inspired, she set out to probe deeper into this cultural chasm and ended up writing Schoolgirls.
Orenstein’s approach to her project was to visit two ethnically polarized middle schools and observe the behaviors of young girls, specifically eighth graders, from all walks of life. She even singled out specific children to learn more about their personal lives. She witnessed girls with declining confidence, girls with conflicting responsibilities: do I stay at home and take care of my younger siblings or do I go to school where I’m not learning much? Do I quit school to get a job to support my family? Orenstein shed light on challenges all girls face no matter their socio-economic backgrounds: self-image and eating disorders, sex, teen pregnancy, and harassment, cliques and bullying, and dipping academic success. One element of young girls’ lives not addressed was the advent of technology: texting, social media platforms, webcams.

Author fact: Schoolgirls has its own webpage here.

Book trivia: The re-issue of Schoolgirls features a new foreword.

Nancy said: Pearl said Orenstein should be read with The Body Project (Bromberg), Reviving Ophelia (Pipher), and Queen Bees & Wannabes (Wiseman) as they are all about “teenage girls’ problems with both society and themselves” (More Book Lust p 227).

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Two, or Three, are better Than One” (p 227).